A Spirit of Hope
I want to share why I love the story of Ruth in the Old Testament book bearing her name. Ruth had an uncanny courage and a true spirit of hope. She refused to give up. Another reason? My daughter-in-law calls me her Naomi; wherever I go she wants to come along!!!
Let’s Dig In
You can read Ruth Part One here. That post ends with…
“Please let me go to the field, and glean heads of grain after him in whose sight I may find favor.” Ruth 2.1-3
Naomi and Ruth are back in Bethlehem and as two women alone, they are struggling to get by. Food is scarce. They appear to have a place to live though. It is probable someone in Elimelech’s family offered them a room or out-structure for their residence. But, eating was dubious and Ruth wanted to do something to procure grain.
The Barley Harvest
When Ruth and Naomi arrived in Bethlehem it was the beginning of the barley harvest, the month of Ab, which was July/August of our calendar. (Ruth 1.22)
Back then the system of gleaning was operational – the landowners would send out the reapers to harvest their crops and leave the outer skirts of the fields for those who had no means of gathering a harvest. They were called Gleaners. It was very hard work. But, it would give them grain for their households.
Ruth went out to the fields to glean. The fields probably weren’t fenced and one owner’s land would flow into another’s. Ruth was working away in a field belonging to Boaz.
Boaz Visits His Fields
Ruth 2.4 tells us that Boaz left Bethlehem and went to the site of his barley fields. He spotted Ruth in the fields and asked his servant, who was in charge of the reapers,
Whose young woman is that?
It is the young Moabite woman who returned with Naomi from the country of Moab. She asked permission and she has been working hard since morning time. She did take a little rest under the porch of the house. Ruth 2.5-7
Boaz Speaks To Ruth
Boaz approached Ruth and gave her his instructions – his kindness almost overwhelmed her. Listen to what he said to her,
Daughter, do not glean in any field but mine. Please stay close to the young women who work for me. Follow after they reap from my fields. I have told the young men to leave you alone – they will not touch you or bother you. When you get thirsty, go to the vessels and drink from the water my men draw. Ruth 2.8-9
Remember I mentioned Ruth was overwhelmed by his kindness? Consider this,
Ruth fell on her face and bowed down to the ground and said to Boaz, “Why have I found such favor in your eyes that you would take notice of me, a foreigner? ” Ruth 2.10
Boaz answered her,
People have told me about you, Ruth, how you stayed with your mother-in-law even after your own husband died. When everything appeared hopeless, you left your parents and the land of your birth to come to a place you have never been and with people you have never known. The Lord will repay your good work and a full reward will be given you by the LORD God of Israel – under whose wings you have found refuge. Ruth 2.11-13
Be Still My Heart
And, Ruth’s. The story continues as Ruth thanks Boaz for being kind and comforting and treating her as one of his maidservants. Boaz responds by inviting Ruth to break bread among the reapers and himself. When she rose from the table Boaz instructed his reapers to allow her to glean among the sheaves without reproach and he told them to allow grain to fall from their bundles so she could gather more. By evening, Ruth had gleaned one ephah of barley grain, which is equivalent to four gallons! (here)
Ruth brought the grain home to Naomi and together they celebrated their abundance! Naomi was filled with questions for Ruth. Where did you glean? Whose field was it? Were there other gleaners? Were you bothered by the reapers? Naomi wanted to know all the things! So many questions!
The Man’s Name is Boaz
Ruth told Naomi about Boaz, how she had found favor in his eyes and how kindly he had treated her. Naomi was ecstatic with this news and told Ruth that Boaz was actually a close relative. Ruth explained to Naomi how Boaz had instructed her to stay close to his workers and to his young women servants. Naomi was very pleased and encouraged Ruth to do as she was told by Boaz. Ruth did just that! She continued to glean in the fields of Boaz, near the maidservants until the end of barley and wheat harvest and she continued to go home to Naomi each and every night.
Here’s Where It Gets Wiggy
You have to read Chapter 3.
Naomi was quite concerned about Ruth’s future and she had a glimmer of hope that Boaz could be the one to rescue her from a life of struggle and gleaning! So she told Ruth to take a really good bath, to anoint herself with some sweet smelling oils, to wear her red dress (well, okay that’s a bit of hyperbole), and to go to the threshing party at Boaz’ fieldhouse. She also told Ruth to not let Boaz know she was there until after he ate and DRANK.
Ruth, after Boaz has eaten and drank his full of wine he will be tired and he will lie down near the threshing floor, away from the others and he will fall asleep. When this happens, I want you to go where he lies and uncover his feet, and lie down. When he notices you he will tell you what to do. Ruth, you must do these things just as I have told you.
Ruth promised Naomi that she would. And, she did. So, around midnight Boaz woke up and probably felt a weight near his feet and it startled him. “WHO ARE YOU?” He asked.
I am Ruth, your maidservant. [Spread the corner of your garment over your maidservant] because you are a close relative [you are my redeemer].
Make no doubt about it, Boaz was thrilled and flattered. Because you see Ruth could have gone after much younger men but she chose him, an older man. Boaz assured Ruth that he would do everything within his power to protect her virtue, and then he had some bad news. “There is a relative closer than I am.”
Boaz asked Ruth to stay through the night and in the morning he would approach the other relative to see if he would “perform” the duty of a close relative.
Ruth stayed until the crack of dawn when the air was still misty with humidity and people were but shadows. Boaz filled her shawl with 24 gallons of barley and helped secure it on her back and she went home to Naomi’s house.
Sit Still My Daughter
Naomi made Ruth wait right there in her home ‘until the matter was resolved.’
Boaz Redeems Ruth
To make a long chapter short: Boaz went to the gate of the city, where such matters were heard and judged and told them the story of Naomi and her daughter-in-law, Ruth. Boaz presented the case to the “closer relative” and in the end Boaz was able to redeem all that belonged to Elimelech, Chilion, and Mahlon including Naomi and Ruth. Boaz received the blessing of all in attendance that day.
So, Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. He went in to her and they were blessed to conceive and she gave birth to a son.
All the women in the village were so happy for Naomi and they chanted over her…
Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without a close relative; and may his name be famous in Israel! And, may he be to you a restorer of life and a sustainer of your old age; for your daughter-in-law, who loves you, who is better to you than seven sons, has borne him.”
Then, Naomi took the child and laid him on her bosom, and became a nurse to him and the neighbor women named him Obed.
And, Obed became the father of Jesse, who was the father of David the king, whose line the Messiah-Redeemer JESUS would come.
What We Can Learn From Ruth
- When life is the bleakest, God is present.
- To keep an open heart and a teachable spirit.
- To never give up hope.
- God’s specialty is making beauty from ashes.
- God shows His favor to those who are obedient.